INTERVIEW: Prendergast, Gosling Speak Out On Iraq, O’Reilly, Violence In Africa

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"INTERVIEW: Prendergast, Gosling Speak Out On Iraq, O’Reilly, Violence In Africa"

Today, ThinkProgress spoke with ENOUGH Project co-founder John Prendergast and actor Ryan Gosling, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Half Nelson, and is currently writing and producing a film on child soldiers in Northern Uganda.

The two visited the Center for American Progress for an ENOUGH Project event on the ongoing conflict in Northern Uganda, sometimes called the “world’s worst forgotten crisis.” Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Prendergast on the Iraq war diverting resources from other global crises:

[Iraq is] like the giant sucking sound that you hear in the background just drawing away international attention and resources twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

Gosling on the State Department’s refusal to send even one high-level diplomat to deal with Uganda:

We were at the State Department this morning, we were sort of speaking with them about what they were doing and I think it’s a little frustrating for us because we feel like — they feel like they’re doing enough and obviously we feel like they could be doing more. Our hope is to sort of motivate enough people to push for a senior official or some sort of diplomat to go over and oversee the peace process and be involved and just have a presence there.

Gosling on criticism that he’s “using” the people of Africa to gain celebrity:

It’s a huge fear of mine, you know that I will bring any kind of negative attention to a situation that couldn’t be any worse. … I don’t want people to attach their opinions of me to the, to the issue, you know. I just am a guy, you know, who is having this amazing opportunity to work with these people and to go to these places.

Prendergast on Bill O’Reilly, who has attacked the work of other Africa activists like Don Cheadle and Angelina Jolie:

He’s [O'Reilly] just pandering for ratings. He doesn’t want to have a discussion, about Northern Uganda or Darfur or any of these issues. They more than anyone — these guys will use these kinds of issues as roadkill for ratings. … What’s really remarkable to me frankly is people like Ryan and Don Cheadle and George Clooney who, it doesn’t help their careers, by the way, to be working on these kinds of issues and to be spending a whole lot of time away from what they do, in order to go crusading around the world about issues that matter to them personally. … So I think there’s no negative, there’s no downside, and people that look for the downsides are sort of the debris, the barnacles, that feed off of this kind of stuff, and that’s how they get their ratings.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/06/goslingpreder.320.240.flv]

The ENOUGH Project is a new organization seeking to aggressively lobby Congress and raise awareness about crimes against humanity in Africa and around the world. Go HERE for more information on the civil war in Northern Uganda.

Transcript:

QUESTION: Can you explain how the Iraq War has impacted Uganda and sapped resources away from that conflict and maybe you could speak about a linkage?

PRENDERGAST: It’s like the giant sucking sound that you hear in the background just drawing away international attention and resources twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The machine is just keep humming, working on Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan.

So generally, not only are most of the resources and the diplomatic attention going to those global war on terror issues but it’s also been when we need to go to New York to work with the Security Council or we need to deal with the European Union, we would prefer not to pressure anyone else or push anyone else because we need to reserve and save our political capital or as President Bush calls it “our leverage” for the top tier issues related to the global war on terror.

So it’s not only the first tier, which is the diversion of resources, but it’s also the second tier, the diversion of energy and willingness to then expend what leverage we do have — and in Northern Uganda for example, we would have a great deal of leverage — because we prefer to save it and hold it for the things that are most important or at least that are most important to this particular administration.

GOSLING: We were at the State Department this morning, we were sort of speaking with them about what they were doing and I think it’s a little frustrating for us because we feel like — they feel like they’re doing enough and obviously we feel like they could be doing more. Our hope is to sort of motivate enough people to push for a senior official or some sort of diplomat to go over and oversee the peace process and be involved and just have a presence there.

QUESTION: In 2005, Bill O’Reilly called Don Cheadle a “phony.” He said specifically, “He’s got a movie out now, so he’s running around. I think Cheadle is a phony and I just don’t want these stars to be getting publicity using people.” I was wondering if you have any response to that.

GOSLING: Yeah no, I think — It’s a huge fear of mine, you know that I will bring any, any kind of negative attention to a situation that couldn’t be any worse.

PRENDERGAST: You’ll finally be exposed as the phony you really are –

GOSLING: Yes, the big phony that I am and, thanks for that —

PRENDERGAST: Waiting for my moment.

GOLSING: Yeah. But obviously, you know I’m fortunate because I have a job where I get to meet people like John and Betty and I get to have these experiences, you know, and the last thing I wanna do is bring any kind of negative attention. I don’t want people to attach their opinions of me to the, to the issue, you know. I just am a guy, you know, who is having this amazing opportunity to work with these people and to go to these places.

PRENDERGAST:and O’Reilly asked us to come on the show but Don had scheduling, he couldn’t do it. So O’Reilly makes a big deal like Cheadle is a coward for not coming on.

It’s just, he’s just pandering for ratings. He doesn’t want to have a discussion, about Northern Uganda or Darfur or any of these issues He will use, or Darfur or any of these issue. They more than anyone — these guys will use these kinds of issues as roadkill for ratings.

What’s really remarkable to me frankly is people like Ryan and Don Cheadle and George Clooney who, it doesn’t help their careers, by the way, to be working on these kinds of issues and to be spending a whole lot of time away from what they do, in order to go crusading around the world about issues that matter to them personally. I’ve just been overwhelmed.

People will always chip away, haters and resenters are always chipping away at people like this, but thank god we have some of these guys bringing attention to these issues otherwise no one would care and we would be crying in the wilderness about the sad situation in places like Northern Uganda.

So Ryan’s taken what light comes to him on the various bases of his career and reflected it — rather than saying “hey, look at me” — he’s reflecting it to little kids like Joyce and the issue of child soldiers in Northern Uganda, and hopefully we can get some action from our administration in Washington in response to it.

So I think there’s no negative, there’s no downside, and people that look for the downsides are sort of the debris, the barnacles, that feed off of this kind of stuff, and that’s how they get their ratings.

GOSLING: Yeah man.

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